Heading into their Week 4 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, the New England Patriots saw three of their players return to practice on Wednesday: running backs James White and Damien Harris as well as wide receiver Gunner Olszewski.
Harris and Olszewski were back after having missed the first three games of the regular season on injured reserve: Harris was sent to IR because of a hand issue while Olszewski hurt his foot at one point leading up to Week 1. The two second-year players are now eligible to practice for the first time again, and apparently physically ready to do that.
This means that the plan for them is to eventually be reactivated off IR within the 21-day window that was now opened. Over the next three weeks, the team therefore has to decide whether or not to add them to their 53-man roster again. If they do that, the Patriots will need to have open spots on their team: New England currently has 52 active players under contract. If they are not activated, however, they will spend the remainder of the season on injured reserve.
Head coach coach Bill Belichick spoke about players possibly returning off IR this week during a media conference call on Wednesday.
“Sometimes, those guys, they’re not ready to play as soon as they start practicing,” said Belichick. “They need another week or two. So, if we do that, it would just be based on that player’s individual situation and how we can evaluate the guy during the time that we have to look at him, whether that’s a week, two weeks, three weeks, whatever it is.
“The first step would be to start him at practice and that starts the clock running on the activation process and then it becomes an evaluation process as we take it day by day.”
Harris and Olszewski are not the only players eligible to return to practice this week and come back off injured reserve: offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste and defensive tackle Beau Allen have also missed three games so far.
Also returning to practice, as noted above, was James White. The veteran receiving back and team captain missed the Patriots’ last two games as well as all of last week after his father was killed in a car crash. His return on Wednesday, meanwhile, is good news for his availability for Sunday’s game in Kansas City.
The two teams will release their first injury reports of the week later today.